Fresno State came to Albuquerque and proved once again why they are considered one of the top teams in the Group of Five conferences in their 38-7 victory over the New Mexico Lobos. The Lobos, who lost consecutive games for the first time this season, struggled to generate anything offensively, especially in the first half.
It took the Lobos until their drive which began with 3:21 to play in the second quarter and ended in a touchdown, to break into Fresno State territory with the ball. Prior to that, the Lobos had been unable to move past their own 35-yard-line. Those would be the only points that UNM would score.
The Fresno State defense was successful in shutting down the Lobos for nearly half of the game, but UNM didn't do itself any favors throughout the game, with a number of passes that, if they had been completed, would have gone for big gains were overthrown or otherwise ruled incomplete. The officials whistled wide receiver Delane Hart-Johnson for a pair of offensive pass interference penalties, something that head coach Bob Davie said he hadn't seen before.
"For two weeks in a row, we haven't made a lot of progress on offense as far as taking the next step," Davie said. “We made some plays, we've got a quarterback that can throw it, he can run it and make plays. But we're just not efficient enough and polished enough against a good defense. We're a bit hit and miss, which would be expected with our offense, expected with our quarterback situation."
Davie said that the team's plan coming into the season was to have 30-35 percent of the offense be the triple option that the team ran exclusively during his first six years in Albuquerque.
However, due to backup quarterback Coltin Gerhart still being out with a sprained foot he suffered in the season opener for, the triple option, as well as the designed quarterback run, is off the table as the team tries to keep Sheriron Jones upright and healthy. Gerhart is two weeks away from a return, according to Davie. Until that time, freshman Trae Hall is the backup quarterback.
"I'm not disappointed in Sheriron," Davie said. "No one can question how hard he plays. He plays hard, and he puts it on the line."
Without the ability to run the triple option, something that has defined New Mexico football through Davie's entire tenure until this year, the Lobos are running a full spread option offense, something they were hoping to avoid so soon after making the switch.
"The triple is the great equalizer, but that's not who we can be right now," he said.
Unfortunately for the Lobos, they don't have a lot of time, or a game against a team that they are expected to be favored in, to develop that polish, as the team now enters the gauntlet on their schedule, beginning next week with 6-1 Utah State.
In order to end the season bowl eligible for the third time in four years, the Lobos will have to develop offensively, as well as find someone to consistently wreak havoc defensively, against the best teams they'll face all year.
It’s not an easy task, and a team that has seemed broken up and frustrated following their last two games will have to find a way to move past a pair of difficult games and rebound. If they aren’t careful, they could see their season derail.
Cameron Goeldner is a sports beat reporter and photographer for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer, women’s basketball, softball and the Albuquerque Isotopes, but also contributes content for baseball, basketball, football and track and field. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @goeldfinger.